The world of journaling is fascinating and expansive. There are people who make their own notebooks and fill them with stunning artwork and gorgeous lettering. Others spend months writing in a journal and then burn it when they get to the end, only to start another one. Some people use cheap spiral-bound notebooks for journal writing while others invest in fancy blank books that are filled with upscale paper.
Journals are popular for this reason: they are highly flexible and can be used by a wide variety of people for a number of different purposes.
Almost all journals involve some kind of writing, and most journals are exclusively for writing, so it’s only natural that writers like us have an interest in journaling.
What is a Journal?
A journal is simply a record that is regularly kept. it can be an account of your personal experiences, a record of your thoughts and ideas, or a log of your lists. Yes, some people keep list journals!
Journals are also used for planning and tracking. For example, you might keep a fitness journal to track your diet and exercise. You’ll write down the foods you eat and the workouts you perform each day. The practice of tracking helps you stay mindful of what you’re trying to achieve, so you stay focused. You can then use the information you’ve tracked to evaluate and modify your behavior.
The word journal is also sometimes used to refer to notebooks that are used for journaling. These are available in a wide array of sizes, materials, and styles. Journal is also another word for a periodical, a magazine, or a newspaper.
Benefits of Journaling
Journaling has been shown to have numerous health benefits. According to Psychology Today, research shows that “journaling can increase your physical health. It may boost your immune system, and it can certainly help manage stressful events and experiences, thus decreasing the damage that stress can do to your body.”
From improving cognitive function by promoting clear thinking to increasing self-awareness and problem-solving, the benefits of journaling have been lauded by everyone from doctors to self-help gurus, spiritual advisers, former teenagers, business executives, and a litany of people from all walks of life — some of whom have consistently journaled for most of their lives and others who engage in journal writing periodically throughout their lives.
I’ve never seen anyone say anything bad about journaling. The only exception might be the occasional story in which someone’s privacy was disrespected and the contents of a private journal were revealed to the wrong people. But for the most part, journaling is widely endorsed as healthy and beneficial. If you can develop and maintain the habit, you will likely reap meaningful rewards.
Journaling to Benefit Your Writing
We’re all writers here. Most of the research and benefits of journaling apply to a few specific types of journaling, particularly keeping a tracker, a diary, or a reflective journal. But there’s a host of other things that we, as writers, can do with our journals, and the benefits are vast:
- Use a journal to cultivate a daily writing habit.
- Practice writing in your journal to improve your skills.
- Work out problems in your journal, from finding the perfect word for a line of poetry to figuring out how to get your characters out of a tight spot you’ve written them into.
- Create a tracker in your journal to log your daily writing. Each day, note your word count, the projects you worked on, or time spent writing. Tracking improves productivity (I use this myself when I need to increase my output or when I’m working on a large project, like a book).
- A journal is an excellent tool for project planning. Start by defining the project and setting goals and milestones, and then add a tracker to log your progress. This can help you stay focused on a project so you actually finish it.
- Use your journal as a brain dump or idea bank. Many of us are constantly bombarded by creative ideas that linger in our minds, sometimes distracting us from the work we need to get done. Dump those ideas into a journal and clear space in your brain for whatever you want to focus on. You can always revisit your idea bank to make a withdrawal later, when you need some inspiration.
- Keep a record of your creative process. This can help you refine the way you work, especially if you’re trying to achieve specific goals, like finishing a novel or maintaining a blog. Review your process to see what you can improve the next time around.
- Set up a submission and publication journal. This can help you stay on top of submissions and provide a useful reference so you never forget where you submitted or where your work has been published.
This is just a small sampling of some journaling that you can do to increase your writing productivity, improve your process, and solve problems that writers often face.
Looking for more inspiration?
Check out THESE journal ideas.
Getting Started with Journal Writing
State Your Purpose
There’s no right or wrong way to journal. But it’s always a good idea to take a moment to think about how you’re going to use your journal and what you want to accomplish with it, especially before you invest a lot of time, money, or energy into purchasing a notebook, pens, and other journaling supplies. That stuff can distract you from your core purpose, and the whole point is to get some writing done.
Maybe your purpose is to simply let your creativity flow onto the pages without any set guidelines. Or maybe you’ll have a notebook divided into sections with tabs for different aspects of your journal writing. Maybe you’ll keep one journal or maybe you’ll have three or four. Just try to have a general sense of what you’re trying to achieve, whether it’s a creative outlet, a record of important life events, or a place to explore your writing ideas.
Should You Stick to a Schedule?
I have mixed feelings about this one. Most of my best journals have been the result of frequent but unscheduled writing sessions. There’s a fine line between nudging yourself to write in your journal every day and exerting too much pressure on yourself to the point that you freeze up and don’t get anything done. This is why I have a strong dislike for journals with dates printed on the pages. They tend to make people feel guilty for skipping a day (which also results in a blank page), and this often leads to abandoning the journal altogether.
Your journaling schedule (or lack thereof) should be based on your goals (which is why establishing your purpose first is important). If you are using your journal as a tool for creativity, you might not need a schedule. If you’re using it to cultivate daily writing habits, then a schedule is paramount. Schedules are also essential for trackers. And let’s face it, the more you work in your journal, the more you’ll gain from it.
Even if you don’t stick to a rigorous schedule, it’s important to do your journal writing somewhat regularly to reap the most benefits. Frequent journal writing will keep your creativity, ideas, and language flowing, and it will help you build good writing habits. You may only be able to journal on weekends or on certain days of the week. Sticking to a schedule (preferably daily) is the best way, but it’s not always realistic, and it doesn’t work for everyone.
Let’s talk about digital versus a paper journal. Most people think of journals as physical, paper notebooks that you can hold in your hand and write in with a pen. But you can journal on a computer or on your smart phone or any other electronic device.
There are some benefits to digital journaling. First and foremost, you can set it up so that you’re never without your journal by using a cloud service. You might do most of your journaling at home, in a comfy desk chair, but if you need to do some journal writing when you’re away from you desk, you can do it on your phone. Apps like Evernote are ideal for this; you could also simply email your journal supplements to yourself and add them to your main journal later.
Digital also provides a stellar level of flexibility when it comes to editing, inserting, and organizing.
But there’s something to be said about the tactile experience of putting pen to paper when it comes to doing creative work. The experience simply can’t be replicated with a computer or even a stylus and a tablet. Over the years, I’ve encountered countless writers who swear by hand writing in a journal. And they’re not wrong. Writing by hand has numerous benefits, including stress relief, increased creativity, better learning and memory, improved mood, and better sleep.
Plus, I don’t know about you, but I find the act of writing with a pen on paper to be soothing.
Getting a Journal
You can journal in anything from a flimsy notebook that you picked up at the dollar store to a fancy, expensive, hand-crafted journal. Same with pens: you can pick up disposable ballpoints for a few cents apiece or blow a bunch of cash on a fountain pen that you have to save up for.
Journaling supplies are a personal decision. Most of us need to experiment with a few different journaling tools to find what works best. And what works best for you today might not work in a few years.
Having said that, my recommendation is to start simple if you’re getting into journal writing for the first time. I have found that fancy supplies often sit on shelves only to be taken out and admired on occasion, whereas more affordable supplies become workhorses. When you’re using a fancy notebook and an expensive pen, you might feel like you should only use these tools if you’re about to compose a masterpiece, whereas working with affordable materials removes the pressure and allows you to create more freely, and in my experience, free creation always gets the best results.
PERSONAL RECOMMENDATION: Lately I’ve been using Moleskines and loving them (aff link). In terms of cost, they’re right in the middle, and I’ve found them comfortable for most purposes (I keep several journals and notebooks). They come in a variety of sizes, so you’re sure to find one that is comfortable for you. You can get hard or soft covers. There are several color options and some special-edition covers. They also come with blank, lined, dotted, and grid pages, and they’re available with different paper, such as sketchbook and watercolor paper. Basically, there’s something for everyone.
Some Journal Writing Tips
My number one advice when it comes to journaling is to take all other advice with a light heart and an open mind. Fellow journalists will passionately express what did and did not work for them. Be open to their shared experiences and be willing to try different things, but remember that what works for them might not work for you.
With that said, here are a few tips based on my own experience with journaling. These may or may not work for you, but I encourage you to at least give them a try (aff links):
- Be messy in your journal. If you’re always trying to have perfect handwriting or only capture good ideas, you’ll stifle your creativity. If you need something pristine, set up a second journal for that type of work.
- Start with an omni-journal, a journal in which you write anything and everything. I mean, you might not want to balance your budget it in. But allow yourself to write everything from life events to character sketches to poetry to freewrites.
- Doodle. Whether you use doodling to create interesting lettering or stick figures in the margins to represent your characters, I have found that doodling enhances creativity. If you’re artistic, go ahead and put drawings in your journal (one of my favorite journals was a mix of art and writing).
- If you’re just getting into journaling, I recommend starting with student-grade notebooks. My earliest journals were three-subject spiral-bound notebooks, sized at about nine by six inches. They are still among my favorites.
- Watch out for supply addiction. The world of journaling is fraught with tempting tools and materials, and if you dip your toes into the many journaling communities online, you might find yourself chasing purchases rather than writing.
- Give your journal a home. Keep it in a handy spot. My journal is almost always within reach. You never know when the urge to create will strike, and it’s good to be prepared. If you need privacy, find an appropriate place to stash your journal.
- Get some sidekicks. I like to pick up pocket-sized notebooks that I can keep in various locations, such as my car or purse. If I need to jot something down, I can tear it out and tape it into my main journal later (I love washi tape for this purpose).
- The blank page can be intimidating, and trying to journal on a schedule can inhibit creativity. But here’s the secret: all you have to do is crack open your journal and write a few words, no matter how silly, lame, or nonsensical. Things tend to start flowing once you turn on that faucet!
- If all else fails, remember that journal prompts are your friend!
Most importantly, have fun with your journal. I have found myself stressing out about journaling, worrying about how to set up my journals and how many I should have and what I should write in them. The answer is always to just relax. Do what you can with what you have. Open the journal and just start writing.
Do all writers keep journals? Of course not. But most of us have kept journals at some point, and journal writing has been instrumental in our development as writers.
Have you ever kept a journal? Do you keep one now? Which journaling tools do you use, and what do you put in your journal? What type of notebook do you use for your journal writing, or do you use a computer? What benefits of journaling have you experienced? Share your thoughts and experiences with journal writing by leaving a comment, and keep writing.
I’ve been journaling my entire life. Looking out right now across my bookcase, one entire shelf is filled with my journals, dating back years.I have different types too. Calendar ones, which just have jotted notes of how we sent the day, recorded for all time, such as “Took the kids to the Ren Faire, had a great time, stopped on the way home for diner at the Great White Inn, Michael told a joke that had us laughing till we couldn’t see straight”
That would be enough to joggle out the memory of a great day. I love those little calendar journals becasue I can look back and see my entire year laid out.
Then I have my thoughts journals. Boy, sometimes those are rough…self-analysis…ouch…go back and read yourself whining about some issue and realize you are still dealing with the same thing in a new costume..that will get you off your behind to make some changes!( This is the one I use for morning pages every day)
Then I have my vacation journals that I take on vacations and write about what is happening and draw pictures and little watercolor scteches of we are seeing or doing to record our vacations with.
Then my lists,hopes,quotes and dreams journal..also refered to as the someday journal.This one is always with me to jot down something that pops in my head.
OK that is my short list. There are actually more.They are all blank paged hard covered books, some leather, some just pretty, whatever catches my eye when I go shopping for a new one, reflective of where I am at in my head at the time. ( Gosh…didn’t know you asked for a guest post…sorry for the long reply)
I’ve kept journals on some of my vacation trips…Plus I add some of my cartoons to capture the momenet. They’re great to look at years later, they bring all my memories back.
Though I’ve gotten so used to the keyboard, my handwriting has suffered.
I actually don’t like to write manually anymore. I get frustrated that my thoughts come out faster than I can put the words down on paper. Then there’s a backlog and I get cramps in my hands trying to scribble everything down in time before it’s lost.
I much prefer using a computer. At least with a keyboard, my hands can somewhat keep up with my brain.
Loved this post but then journaling is a favorite topic of mine.
I posted about my journals and journaling at Journal, Journaling and the Journey
Crayola Markers, ehh? That is an advantage of a sketchbook with its heavier pages. I do keep a secret stash of 10 color glitter ink pens. I know, it’s so out of character. *sigh*
Apologies in advance if the link doesn’t code right. WP and I haven’t been on the same code page since their last upgrade. And I’m thinking about switching to WP why?
A person has to be invited to read this blog. May I have an invitation.
Drawing? Nobody said anything about drawing! I can barely write legibly, and even that’s up to debate, now you want me to DRAW?? (grin)
Hi, Melissa –
I don’t keep a daily journal, but (like Wendi and Friar) I do keep vacation journals. My husband and I take turns chronicling our vacation events, and we do our best to keep ticket stubs, postcards, and other memorabilia in our travel journals. It’s great to look back on them are remember the little moments we captured – ones we would have otherwise forgotten.
Melissa, just the sight of a journal gets my fingers twitching. Like you, nothing does it for me like pen and paper. There are times that I free write on the computer but it seems so efficient (and very much like the writing work I do daily) that it doesn’t feel the same. The pen seems to connect me with a different flow, a wellspring of feeling and passion that don’t come as easily with the keyboard. I have a journal, prayer journal, idea journal and writing journal. Each with a purpose that taps into a different part of my heart and my mind. By the way, every time you mention that Mac, I get a goofy grin and a faraway look as I picture it beaming at me. Soon, soon I shall join the ranks. 🙂
@Wendi, you keep so many journals, it sounds like you could indeed write an entire post about them! I can totally relate to what you’re saying about cringing when you go back and read old journals. Not so much dealing with the same issues, but all that whining! I kept a lot of journals during my teen years and that’s all I’ll say about that.
@Friar, computers have destroyed good penmanship! I’ve heard this time and again on the blogs I read. I have to agree with you; it’s easier to keep up with my thoughts when I write on the computer, but the trade-off is that I do feel more creative with pen and paper. What’s a girl to do?
@Deb (gscottage), I remember that post you wrote about journaling! And yes, glitter pens are a little out of character! You’re full of fun surprises (I love those glitter pens too, but I don’t have any at the moment).
@Deb (Punctuality), well, you don’t have to draw. Unless you want to. I’m not an artist by any means, but I’ve found that while using a computer to type has had a negative impact on my handwriting, it hasn’t really affected what little drawing abilities I have. That’s sort of good news, right?
@Rebecca, I’ve always wanted to keep a travel journal, but when I do travel (not very often), I’m always too busy to sit down and write. If I ever take that big trip to NY or Paris, I’m going to make journaling my adventures a priority!
@Karen, you’re going to LOVE the Mac. I promise! I’ll love my own Mac even more when I can get the rest of the software I need. Every time I see the word Mac, dollar signs swarm around my head! And yes, we are much alike when it comes to journaling. I used to keep separate journals too, but now I lump everything into one.
I agree, good penmanship is on the decline. It’s a dying skill. (Just like baking bread, or weaving and spinning your own wool). But in exchange, we gain other skills.
The upside is technology gives us more time to focus on the actual CONTENT of the writing, instead of how pretty the words look on paper.
With so many finite hours in a given day, I guess it’s a matter of deciding what you want to spend your time on.
(PS. I hate the actual physical writing part…). Thanks to Sister Ellen in Grade 3 who sucked all the fun out of learning penmanship…what a miserable Old Bat! 😉
Good to see you again Melissa. I have been away for a bit here but came back to find your informative and quality posts stayed steady. 🙂
My journal is my friend, but I can only visit when I am relaxed. I always write by hand and it means I need to unwind to do it.
But there is something else to it- when I am really working through things I always find a silent space where I can listen. I often don’t want to invade that space, even with my own words. So I tend to journal when the storm is over.
I am journalling more now. 🙂
@friar – I definitely agree that modern manuscripting leave more time for content.
I was the first left-handed student the first grade teacher was not allowed to change and it drove her crazy. Actually she would just shake her head and murmur “you’ll never learn to write.” And I didn’t until recently. My handwriting is generally much better now unless I am very tired (like at the end of back to back Blue books).
But I didn’t learn how to type until I went back to university in 02. (Don’t ask what I was doing in journalism school at 19 when I couldn’t type.)
Now with wordprocessing I feel much freer to just tap away because if it has a problem I just cut and paste or hit delete. Never again do I have to completely retype something because I forgot the footnote on page 2 of 26 pages. Hallelujah!
Melissa: I have “The Artist’s Way” and did morning pages for a while. I also have a book on “the proprioceptive method” of journaling which is basically listening to your thoughts and slowing down the thought process to the time it takes you to write down what you’re thinking. By slowing down the thought process you can better reflect on what you’re thinking. I’m working on creating a morning ritual for myself right now and I want to reincorporate journal writing into my life.
Melissa: I journal haphazardly on a moleskin watercolor book with tear out sheets. For me writing on paper is all about the feel of the paper I’m writing on and of the pen I use (a cheap 2.49 pilot explorer with extra fine tip). Into the book I paste images, cartoons, photos, write stuff, even jot down grocery lists (these can be interesting to come back to sometimes), impressions of any sort or anything that comes to mind and which I fear forgetting. Once I finish one I put it away and start a new one.
I certainly do believe that journaling keeps the muse active, and provides a great source for material. I also share your sentiment about preferring to write on paper instead of typing it out on a keyboard. There definitely is something about the old-fashioned method that gets the juices flowing and lets one feel like a “real” writer.
As you mentioned in your post, I take a smaller notebook everywhere with me for when those random lightning bolts strike. I’ve never glued them to my main journal, but that actually sounds like an interesting idea. I think I’ll try that.
For me, journaling and blogging have to be kept separate because I’m (unsuccessfully) trying to blog for profession. The journal voice just seems too impersonal and unprofessional — as it very well should! But great ideas for a blog post definitely come from regular journaling.
Great post! Thanks!
Well, I’ve been journaling my entire life, too. I had those little diaries with locks as a kid and then there were just plain ole notebooks filled to the brim with oodles of doodles and lots of feelings. Like you, Melissa, I draw, write poetry, document the day’s events, or whatever I feel like putting on paper. I’ve written in pretty journals, on scratches of paper that I’ve tucked into journals…
I don’t journal as often as I used to, but I still do. And, it really isn’t the same to keep a journal online or saved in a file on the computer. Holding the journal and writing in it is such a creative, personal process. It’s calming and just a part of who I am. Actually, I have stacks of journals. I can’t imagine how many more I’ll collect in my lifetime. By the time I’m old, I may be lost in a sea of journals! hehehe
I have journaled a fair bit of my life – I find the cathartic benefits to be quite fantastic. It is amazing how I talk myself through a problem in my journal.
I journal haphazardly with pen and paper (my preferred method) and have all my life but I do publish Sunday-Friday on my blog and I do some journaling there too.
Raw journaling on paper really does help you process thoughts and develop ideas!
I wish I had kept a vacation journal on our honeymoon, we did take pictures (9 rolls of film for a 6 day trip) and we did save all of our stubs and etc… I keep meaning to scrapbook all those pictures, it’s been 9 years now but one of these days I’ll get it done. I’m almost finished with our wedding scrapbooks – it is amazing how the memories come back once I start journaling in the scrapbooks.
I have an Aunt and Uncle who biked across France early in their marriage, they have been married for 33 years now and my Aunt is putting together a scrapbook of that trip. She says that the journals she kept are the only way she remembers a lot of the things that happened.
Excellent Article! Thanks to MicheleT who pointed me here via Plurk!
I recently started my Morning Pages again (as you already know). I don’t know why I stopped doing them (prob b/c of the time commitment) because they are the most helpful thing I’ve ever done. I also keep a regular daily journal (that isn’t really that “daily”). Most recently I’ve started a gluebook, which has become my art journal, of sorts. While I don’t write in it, I definitely express myself with the process of create collages on the pages.
Terrific post! 🙂
…Hah! Another lefty (like me!)
I was bored one summer when I was 12. My Mom had her old typewriter and her old college typing book. I taught myself to touch-type. Most useful thing I ever did.
You’re right. There is so much FREEDOM in being able to tap away on the keyboard, and cut and paste.
Without having to worry about carbon paper or liquid paper..!
@friar – Actually being a lefty is great and I have come to love it. I think it goes with my contrary nature to go against the crowd; and right-handedness is way too crowded. Remember August 13 is Left-Handed Day!
I actually forgot about carbon paper. Yeah, black carbon and white blouses are not a good combination. But I love Wite-out tape and use it for tons of stuff. You know Mike Nesmith’s mom invented, held the patent for, and manufactured the original Liquid Paper after developing the original formula in her kitchen until she sold it for a very handsome ROI. One very well-off lady. (Of course none of you ever heard of the Monkees.) To quote Paul Harvey – “and that’s the rest of the story.”
Remember having to bring a report to the “Typing Pool”. Where you’d bring your hand-written documents, and the Word Processor ladies would type it out for you? It took a couple of weeks just to go through a few edits.
I think people were more careful what they wrote, back then, though. A document only went through 2-3 revisions, not 20.
And Hey, I know all about the Monkees! I was too young when they first came out, but they were popular well into the 1970’s. Watched the reruns on TV as a kid.
Corgi Toys (if you remember those) even had a MonkeyMobile.
@Friar, that’s a good way to look at it. We do pick up a lot of new skills in exchange for penmanship. I’m in full agreement. Reminds me of a story I heard once about how we progressed from the abacus to the calculator and people were concerned math skills would be lost. Then came computers…
@Harmony, glad you’re back and journaling too! Yes, a journal is a lot like a friend — one who always listens. Carving out quiet time to be with our thoughts (and journals) is always helpful.
@Deb (gscottage), I really don’t know how we ever got along without word processing. I remember taking typing in junior high and it was SUCH a pain to make corrections or add footnotes. As much as Microsoft irritates me, I do appreciate that they created Word, which I love.
@Marelisa, the proprioceptive method sounds pretty good. Do you have the title of that book? I wouldn’t mind learning how to slow down my thoughts at will since most of the time they are spinning out of control!
@Milena, I bet your journals are fun to read through. I have a few like that — old journals that contain everything from drawings to shopping lists. They’re among the most interesting to look at. Also a good source for inspiration!
@Nathan, I think we’d all like to be professional bloggers. I wouldn’t mind that at all! You might be surprised at how responsive readers are when you blog in a more personal (journal) style. When I started Writing Forward, I had a very professional/clinical approach to the voice of each post and then I sort of threw my hands up in the air and got really casual. Guess what? Things improved: more subscribers, more comments, etc. The same thing happened when I stopped adhering to a strict schedule. Blogging is odd and surprising, to say the least.
@Michele, you’ve got me thinking about my own stacks of journals, and I’m trying to figure out if I’ve filled in more journals or if I have more waiting to be used. I have a whole shelf of blank journals and notebooks, and it seems to grow all the time!
Oh, and thanks for Plurking. I’m a Plurk member, but I haven’t been on it for more than five minutes. I really need to learn the ropes…
@JimBob51, yes, I think if we approach journaling with the notion to solve problems or provide some sort of relief, the whole process can be effective. I’ve done quite a bit of that type of journaling and saw impressive results.
@Blessed, welcome! And thanks for reading and commenting. One of the reasons I don’t journal about actual events is that I’ve always had a really good memory, and I figure if the details are important enough, I’ll remember them. But recently I’ve read a few old papers and realized that I don’t remember as much as I thought! So I’d like to start journaling events and trips much the same way you do.
@Hope, I have done a few collage projects, and I have to say that I love making collages! It’s just really time consuming but oh so much fun!
@Friar, I taught myself how to type too! Except I did it on a computer using this game called Typing Tutor. Kind of like Tetris. The letters would fall from the top of the screen and you had to hit them on the keyboard before they reached the bottom. By the time I took an actual typing class, I had it down and was the fastest student! Hahehe.
@Deb (gscottage): I have too heard of The Monkees! I own many of their songs and used to listen to their albums when I was a child. My mom and I watched their show all the time. Hey hey we’re the Monkees!
Typing Tetris? Oh man, I wish we had something like that when I was a kid.
By the way, the Monkees all played their own instruments. (Of course they did) 😉
While I in no way want to minimize Julia Cameron’s contributions to the field, you neglect to mention Natalie Goldberg’s wonderful Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind, Kathleen Adams Journal to the Self, and Tristine Rainer’s The New Diary. I recall reading these long before Ms. Cameron. Nor do you mention Ira Progoff, and his At a Journal Workshop. All of these are equally as important.
@Melissa, Really? I’ve always wondered, because it’s darn hard to talk about some topics in a strictly professional way 🙂 — I’m definitely going to have to try a post in a more casual way!
@Melissa – You’re most welcome! You’ll love Plurk once you get the hang of it. There’s lots of writers there and even a Writer’s Clique. We share inspiration, motivation, cheer each other on, chat about what we had for lunch… It’s just great! 😉
Oh, and it sounds like you have some doodling and writing to do to fill up all those blank pages, girl! hehehe
I just popped back in to say I have really enjoyed all of these great comments and the discovery of a boatload of new blogs! I learned to type on a typewriter. It was so heavy that it could have killed me. I was maybe 6 or 7 and my mom said that typing was a skill everyone should have. When Word Perfect came along I taught myself. Gee, I suddenly feel like a relic at 44. Loved Peter, Davey and all the Monkeys. Oh man, I am old! Hey btw I’m on Plurk too. 🙂
I’m late to the party on this one, but I think I’ll give the morning pages a shot while I’m still in bed with a cup of coffee. 😉 Maybe it’ll make self-motivating in the morning easier—despite knowing every productivity trick in the book, motivation is not something I have mastered!
@friar – The four guys who comprised The Monkees were legitimate well-train musicians but they were originally (unbeknownst to them) signed to lip-sync to a pre-recorded track. It was either Nesmith or Dolenz who put up a big stink and actually orchestrated a small strike to do some test shows with them writing and “live” performing their own songs. It took off from there.
@karen – My dad who was a trained teacher actually kept signing me out of typing classes so I wouldn’t become a “dumb secretary” who “makes no money.” Makes me wonder what my mother thought of that since she went back to doing secretarial because he got fired and we lived off that secretarial income.
In high school I wrote my newspaper stories (school and the daily) by the 2 finger method on a broken red IBM Selectric in the back of the school typing lab (we’ll leave out what years those were). I had a Smith-Corona electric that was a graduation present for college but I was still in the hunt and peck mode so it always took a week to type a paper which meant no sleep.
In 1982/3 we bought a K-Pro and WordPerfect because my husband was writing his master’s thesis and I “typed” 280 of the 300 pages. Most of you are too young to have experienced the olden days of home computing. Y’all talk about booting and bios but you’re at the push-button stage. To get ready to type on the K-Pro meant turning it on to warm it up, and then take the boot disk to tell it what it was, then eject and put in the WordPerfect disk so it knew what I wanted to do. All of this is without a mouse so there were certain screens and stages where it was “safe” to make these changes. The internal storage was for in-use only so every 10 minutes -by the clock- I had to re-save to a five-and-a-quarter storage disk (eject WP, insert blank, save, reinsert WP). Everything would come to a halt if it got stuck in a “do-loop” which I’m told is remedied by hitting “esc” but the system cost us $1200 and had basically no warranty so it would sit till my husband came home. I’ll save the “modem” story for another day.
I kept a journal when I was a kid and then in 5th grade one of my friends brought it to school without me knowing and it went around the school like wildfire. I haven’t kept one since you never know who is gonna find it and show people everthing inside.
@Friar, yep, typing tetris was a lot of fun. I bet it’s still out there somewhere. I think the official name was Typing Tutor.
@otherdeb, I wasn’t going for a bibliography on books about journaling with this post…just wanted to share some tips and ideas. I chose The Artist’s Way because I wanted to talk about the usefulness of the morning pages. However, Writing Down the Bones is one of my favorite writing books, and I’ve mentioned it here on this blog a few times already. Thanks for sharing those other journaling resources with us.
@Nathan, yes, really! I think it depends on the type of blog you have and of course on your audience. For example, a casual voice wouldn’t be appropriate on a medical blog but would work well on a blog about pets.
@Michele, yep, I have lots of blank pages to fill and plenty of ideas too! Hopefully I’ll get to spend some time on Plurk one of these days. So far, all I’ve done is set up my account and accept requests that forward to my email. I’m not sure if I like it better than Twitter, which I also haven’t had time for lately. Kind of a bummer, but we can only do so much in a day.
@Karen, a relic? Geez, I thought you were about 30 from your photo (that’s younger than me, btw). I think my favorite Monkees song was “I’m a Believer.” There’s another (obscure) one called “Randy Scouse Grit” or something like that, which I like a lot too.
@Joel, The only time I’m not motivated is in the morning. When it comes to productivity, I’ve got everything down except mastering my sleeping habits. My vision is to sit on a lovely porch each morning (preferably before 10 a.m.) with my coffee and morning pages for about twenty minutes. We’ll see if that ever happens!
@Deb (gscottage), man, that would have been cheesy if the Monkees didn’t perform their own music. I mean it was kind of cheesy anyway, so can you imagine? Heheh.
@Coby, my mom always said don’t write down anything unless you don’t care who sees it. I did not take her advice. One of my boyfriends once read my journal and happened across a page where I was complaining about him. I didn’t really care since it was all legit and his invasion far outweighed what I had written.
Funny comment, Melissa! I just read the comment you left at my juice blog. Yeah, it’s me! That’s my new site. I have lots more to do to make it shine but it’s coming along. 😉
Michele, aka Juice Girl
Hands down the favorite’s got to be “Daydream Believer.”
@Michele, very nice site you’ve put together! I like your handle “Juice Girl.” Love it, love it, love it!
@Deb (gscottage), that’s a good song too! It’s excellent for singalongs.
I’ve never had the journaling compulsion for some reason. I’m usually inspired to either write stories or to work on something that will make me money. I have a goal-oriented personality, I guess. Just writing down what happened during the day doesn’t fulfill me.
That said, I did keep one when I was in Europe for three weeks. Lots of time on the bus riding between countries, and I’d left my laptop at home, so I scribbled in a little journal.
It’s hard to stop writing. 🙂
@Melissa – thanks! *blushes* I appreciate the compliments! Juice Girl just popped in my head so I ran with it. I’m always making juices and juice fasting has become a huge part of my life. It’s been a crucial part of improving my health. 😉
@Lindsay, you could use a journal to generate ideas for stories or other paid projects. Not all writers want or need to keep a journal. It’s completely up to you. I would say it’s worth it to try journaling for a couple of weeks and see if you can’t find any benefits that support other areas of your writing.
@Michele, I’m a smoothie fan but haven’t explored juicing very much. Actually, I haven’t explored it at all. But I’ll keep my eyes on your blog for some tasty new smoothie recipes!
You just inspired me to grab my gratitude journal and start writing again. I’m a very infrequent journaler. I guess I’m a bit like Lindsay and focus on more practical matters instead of spending time with a journal each day.
I do keep travel journals though and have quite a few sitting in my bedside table. For many journaling is very relaxing. I prefer to do craft and think about life in general. I find I relax more.
Come to think about it though, I do have a lovely creative journal from years ago. I used to draw, stick pictures in there and sketch. Loved that thing. Maybe there is hope for me after all. 🙂
@Monika, I think it’s difficult to keep a journal when we write for a living. I know that since I started freelancing, I’ve moved away from some writing practices I used to enjoy very much, like journaling and writing poetry. I think that’s okay for now, but not for the long haul!
The gratitude journal is one of my favorites. It really helped me stay positive and hopeful through a difficult time.
@ Melissa: I think you are right. After a day of writing the last thing I want to do is write some more, even though it is by hand.
The positive mind set and appreciation for small things is what makes the gratitude journal so appealing to me. 🙂
Hi Melissa. I’ve been out of touch with my journalling and feeling guilty. I have a stack of books from past journalling and recording dreams. I used to write morning pages (I wrote about this success in Magic Happens on my blog).
But, for some reason I’ve been dancing around getting back at it. Keep my journal by my bedside and stare at it every morning! Help!!! Very strange indeed!
@Monika, I’ve been trying to think of a way to incorporate morning pages into my routine, and now I’m wondering if I can’t slip in a gratitude journal. Those entries don’t take very long, and I could write them while I sip my coffee. Good way to start the day!
@Davina, it sounds like you’ve developed some kind of resistance to your own journal. There are a couple of things you could do. You could schedule an appointment with yourself to sit down and write in it. Or just go do it right now. Maybe for your first entry, write about why you’re avoiding it. Once you figure that out, it might be easier to pick it up and write instead of staring at it.
Melissa, thanks for writing this post. I love journaling – always have – but I haven’t been very faithful in the last couple of years. Your beautiful post made me want to get it out and create! (By the way, I use the Watson-Guptill Sketchbook too. I love to use markers in it and glue things in.)
@Jessica, I haven’t been faithful to my journal lately either. I think it happens to a lot of writers. That’s okay though, as long as we come back to it eventually! And you did, so pat yourself on the back!
Another great page Melissa. Journal writing has to be one of the most wonderful psychotherapy tools on the planet. It keeps people away from cell-phones, TVs and computers and hopefully off the street when things could turn sour for some.
I don’t know if my journal writing amounts to spit. But it sure as hell gets a lot of crapola out my head and heart and onto paper.
For teachers, they ought to be doubling their effort to get adolescent men into writing to get their stuff onto paper. I have no doubt it would be an effective task as the boys take it up.
The story about a teacher in NYC who taught it what was apparently the worst school in the US; had quite a number of tear-jerker stories to tell because of his success with at risk and serious problem students.
A writer was invited to a school and he asked the class who ‘really’ wants to be a writer? A number of hands went up. He then asked, ‘Why are you wasting your time here. Why aren’t you at home writing?’
So why are you reading this pap! Why aren’t you writing?
Yes, journal writing can be very therapeutic indeed. Throughout my schooling, I had several teachers who required that students keep a daily journal; we were usually given time in class each day to compose our entries. It had a profound impact on me, and I kept at it for a long time afterwards.
I started journaling when I was twelve and try to keep it up regularly. The habit has come in quite handy, actually, during some extremely tough spots in my life, like losing dear friends. Through these times, I wrote out my feelings. Sometimes that was the only way to take some of the weight off my heart. It didn’t make it go away completely, but it felt healing, and now I have a lot of inner thoughts, emotions, and feelings to look to for inspiration in my creative writing.
Reading this post made me realize that I need to get another journal (the one I have I keep by my bed and write in at night before turning in)–this one to carry around with me! Sometimes when I have a sudden idea, I quickly jot it down on my iPod. But having a real journal would be much better.
Thank you for this post! It’s inspired me to be more proactive about my journaling and keeping track of my creative flow.
It’s true: writing is so therapeutic! I think a lot of us are moving toward electronic writing tools nowadays, since it’s so much easier to carry a smart phone as opposed to a notebook and a pen, but I still prefer doing some of my writing the old-fashioned way.
I am obsessed with journaling. I love your thoroughness of explaining journaling. I wrote a book on how I journal that I think people who love to journal–I believe it could benefit other journal lovers.
I’m so glad you enjoyed this piece. Journaling is truly a wonderful practice.